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July 13, 2009

Let's play the feud, the food feud! Mr. Chow vs. Philippe, take two

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As we reported a few days ago, the soon to open at the W South Beach Mr. Chow is suing Philippe at the Gansevoort South for 33-pages worth of reasons. We just received an official statement from Stratis Morfogen, partner in Philippe, who said the following:

"Their complaint is that we’re confusing the customer. When we first opened, we went out of our way to take the extra steps and safeguards to make sure we were introducing our brand as something completely different than Mr. Chow. We don’t want to be associated with Mr. Chow. Obviously there are similarities in the dishes because the chef came with us and went after the American Dream and went on his own. He’s been cooking this way for 27 years. It all comes back to the fact that I don’t agree with the customer experience at Mr. Chow. They’re bright lights, we’re dark. They do not give a menu, we do. They do orders for one, we do it for two or family style. They do not have a lot of music in the house, we have music in the house. We wanted a complete turnaround from what customers were experiencing there. I was going there for seven years and I’d always eat the same thing and get a different bill.  Fact of the matter is Philippe is a very respected brand, we treat our customers right, they come back and enjoy the experience we offer them, they know what they pay for, they see a menu and they know what they get, that’s more then I can say for some of our competitors.

Mr. Chow does not own the words Beijing chicken or Peking duck or lettuce wrap or chicken satay or crispy beef. They’re in a hundred Chinese restaurants. For him to say he has a trademark means Burger King should be wiped out because McDonald’s has a trademark on the hamburger. We’re not calling it the Whopper, or “Mr. Chow’s chicken satay.” Thirty percent or 40 percent of our menu is dishes that Michael Chow does not have. Keep in mind, Michael Chow is not a cook. It’s fine if Michael Chow wants to say that I’m just an amusement-park owner or whatever, but let’s be clear: Michael Chow is not a chef. He’s lived off other people and other chefs.


To portray him as a chopper is comical. That hurt him, because he put 27 years of his life in there. When I was introduced to him by managers, waiters, and staff, they called him Chef Philippe, Chef Philippo, Chef Philippa — always Chef. In his office there are pictures of him and celebrities photographed in the middle of the dining room in a full chef’s outfit. Our lawyers will tear this apart because his whole complaint is contradictory. It’s almost laughable. Actually, when Philippe said he was leaving, Michael Chow offered him a couple years' salary not to open a new restaurant. Why would you make that kind of deal with a “chopper?” And if you want to clear up this thing about him being the chef, why don’t you do that the first week we open so that we don’t have any momentum?

Our decision is to stay away from Mr Chow. We signed the Miami deal before his deal and opened a year and two months before he opened. I don’t understand how he says we went where he was. I’ve been offered a dozen different locations in Beverly Hills and I’ve intentionally stayed away from all of them.

In Google we bought the word Chow — we bought different words like “Chinese food” because that’s just good marketing. Why shouldn’t we get the word Chow when our chef’s name is Chow? There are one million people in the world named Chow! You know what’s funny? Philippe Chow’s birth name and his American name are pretty similar — they’re both pronounced Chow. Michael Chow’s birth name has nothing to do with Michael or Chow. This is borderline egomaniacal! The world does not revolve around Michael Chow.

Fact of the matter is Philippe is a very respected brand, we treat our customers right, they come back and enjoy the experience we offer them, they know what they pay for, they see a menu and they know what they get, that’s more then I can say for some of our competitors."

Survey says? Jury's out until Mr. Chow opens for biz. Until then, we'll just say chow--er, ciao, to the matter.

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